Archive for July, 2009

The Religious Right has become extremely “activist” in its tactics over the last few months. Since it no longer runs the country at the federal level, and has lost a great deal of influence in a number of states, they’ve started using a wider range of methods to get their message — of total subservience by all Americans to their own form of rigid, Protestant fundamentalism, and a government designed their way to force their metaphysics on everyone — out to the masses. The latest example of this effort can be seen in this report by the St Petersburg Times:

Christian group’s billboards denounce separation of church, state

A Hillsborough public policy group whose Christian platform included a push for a state ban on gay marriage has embraced a new attack on an old target: the separation of church and state. …

The message, as explained on www.noseparation.org, is that “America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious.”

“The Judeo-Christian foundation that the Founding Fathers established when America began is the reason that this country has prospered for 200-plus years,” said Kemple, president and sole employee of the local Community Issues Council, which paid for the Web site.

“The fact is, for the last 40 years, as anti-God activists have incrementally removed the recognition of God’s place in the establishment of our country, we have gone downhill.”

These Religious Right activists are not averse to making things up in order to convince people of their point:

The billboards showcase quotes from early American leaders like John Adams, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. Most of the quotes portray a national need for Christian governance.

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

You would think that such devout Christians wouldn’t be so quick to be dishonest, but guess again! They make no apologies for weaving fiction:

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

There, you see? They think Washington said things of this sort, and they’re so sure of it, that they just fabricate it, and expect no one will know any better.

Yep, just another bunch of lying liars for Jesus.

These dominionists are horrifically dangerous … in case you haven’t noticed … and they aren’t above old propaganda tricks such as those once employed by the Third Reich, the Kremlin, or Chairman Mao.

In case there’s any doubt … none of the Founding Fathers were Christian fundamentalists. Not one. (The reason? Christian fundamentalism did not come into existence until the 19th century — by which time all the Founding Fathers were long gone.) Washington never desired a theocracy, and Jefferson was opposed to dogmatic religion of any kind. Thomas Paine penned one of the all-time greatest anti-religion polemics, Age of Reason. For details on what the Founding Fathers actually thought, and what it means for the U.S. to be a “secular state,” please have a look at this page.

It would be nice if these people grew up and accepted the existence of non-Christians in their United States … but I’m not counting on it ever happening.

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As a brief follow-up on my earlier blog entry concerning the Rightists’ “birther” delusion, it turns out that Obama’s original, long-form birth certificate cannot be produced, not merely because the state of Hawai’i provides no means to request it … but it has been destroyed. The Los Angeles Times Show Tracker reports on what CNN has found out (WebCite cached article):

The website TVNewser reported today that Klein sent an e-mail to staffers of “Lou Dobbs Tonight” just as the program went to air, informing them that CNN researchers had determined that Hawaiian officials discarded all paper documents in 2001. A long-form birth certificate with details about the doctor who delivered Obama no longer exists, they reported.

I’m sure all those dutiful Rightists out there will say, “Sure, CNN claims that. They’re CNN, after all, the flagship media outlet of the Liberal Media Elite®!” While CNN does lean toward the Left, though, the claim that the state of Hawai’i destroyed the long-form certificate in 2001 is something that could easily be verified … meaning one need not take CNN’s word for it.

Of course, despite having been told this by his own network, Lou Dobbs continues to pander to the birther-delusionists, as the LA Times goes on to say:

In his show Thursday, Dobbs did note the explanation from Hawaiian officials, though he went on to devote another segment to the topic, interviewing CNN contributor Roland Martin and Rep. Ted Poe, a co-sponsor of a bill that would require future presidential candidates to produce their birth certificates. …

In the segment, Dobbs stressed that he has said repeatedly that he believes Obama is a citizen, something that he said his critics in the “left-wing media” ignore.

Note how deftly Dobbs plays both sides … on the one hand he concedes Obama is a citizen, but on the other, he courts those who think otherwise. In other words, he’s being disingenuous. His duplicity is especially obvious, since he also said:

But he continued to press the question of why Obama has not shown a long-form birth certificate. “When this could be dispelled so quickly, and — and simply by producing it, why not do it?” Dobbs asked.

Earth to Lou — and all the other birther-delusionists out there: Now you know why Obama can’t produce the long-form cerificate … IT DOESN’T EXIST! The time has finally come for you to grow the fuck up and stop demanding what can never be provided.

P.S. To everyone who goes along with the old canard about CNN being part of the Liberal Media Elite® … if this is true, please explain how such an outlet could possibly keep guys like Dobbs on its payroll? Just wondering.

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It’s official. The Republic of Ireland — a generally-enlightened country whose economy boomed through most of the 2000’s — has slid back into the Dark Ages. It is now illegal to blaspheme in Ireland, as the New York Times Lede blog reports:

After some hesitation, Ireland’s president, Mary McAleese, signed into law on Thursday a controversial new measure which makes it a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $35,000, to publish or utter blasphemous statements in the Irish Republic.

As The Irish Times explained in April, the new law was crafted after someone noticed that while the country’s constitution clearly calls blasphemy a criminal act, Irish legislators had failed to give the nation’s police force the legal means to hold blasphemers to account.

Ireland’s response to the problem was not to amend its Constitution to remove the offending clause … it was, instead, to dig in, keep it, and make it enforceable.

Nice.

This means lots of things are now impermissible in Ireland, probably including the showing of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a scene from which actually exemplifies (via parody) what’s wrong with laws against blasphemy, as the Lede showed.

Here is the offending scene, courtesy of YouTube:

I can only assume it’s illegal to view for someone in Ireland to cite material from my blog, since it has so much godless-heathen content. Heck, it might even be illegal for someone in Ireland merely to view this blog! So if you’re reading this blog in Ireland, best of luck, and hopefully the authorities will never find out you’ve been here. (I certainly won’t tell!)

The Lede blog offers the following defense of Ireland’s new ban on blasphemy:

In fairness to Irish lawmakers, it should be noted that six American states — Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wyoming — still have laws against blasphemy on the books, although they are only occasionally enforced in the 21st century.

I’m sure the New York Times meant this to be taken humorously, but sadly enough, there are some who will say that Ireland’s ban on blasphemy is acceptable, because these states also ban it … following the old “two wrongs make a right” thinking which is decidedly fallacious (but then, religionists never met a fallacy they didn’t like).

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I mentioned this controversy a couple of times already, in an earlier blog post on the “moon-landing” hoaxers, but apparently this is another one that just won’t die. This particular misbelief — that President Barack Obama is not a “natural-born citizen” of the US as required by the Constitution and therefore not legally the President — is a favorite of the Religious Right and assorted other paranoid conspiracy theorists.

It became an issue during the 2008 campaign, and despite his electoral victory, it appears never to have died out. It kicked up afresh when a “birther” showed up at Republican Congressman Mike Castle’s “town meeting,” sanctimoniously raging about Obama not having a birth certificate and waving her own — which she believes constitutes proof that Obama refuses to provide his own. The Chicago Tribune‘s Swamp blog comments on this and other events that have pushed this misbelief back into the limelight:

Listen to the cheers for the woman holding up her birth certificate and asking why the president won’t share his.

Listen to the boos when a Republican congressman asserts rather assuredly that the president of the United States, a Democrat, “is a citizen of the United States” …

Listen to the Pledge of Allegiance break out.

Yes, indeed … the assembled childish crowd was angered by Castle’s response that Obama is, in fact, a citizen. And yes, they actually launched into a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance … as if that, too, were somehow proof that Obama is not a citizen.

Folks, the matter of Obama’s birth was settled long ago. Obama has produced all the documentation necessary to show that he is a “natural-born citizen” as defined by federal law. Claims that his birth certification is not valid, are simply untrue, as FactCheck has demonstrated conclusively:

Some claim that Obama posted a fake birth certificate to his Web page. That charge leaped from the blogosphere to the mainstream media earlier this week when Jerome Corsi, author of a book attacking Obama, repeated the claim in an Aug. 15 interview with Steve Doocy on Fox News. …

Corsi isn’t the only skeptic claiming that the document is a forgery. Among the most frequent objections we saw on forums, blogs and e-mails are:

  1. The birth certificate doesn’t have a raised seal.
  2. It isn’t signed.
  3. No creases from folding are evident in the scanned version.
  4. In the zoomed-in view, there’s a strange halo around the letters.
  5. The certificate number is blacked out.
  6. The date bleeding through from the back seems to say “2007,” but the document wasn’t released until 2008.
  7. The document is a “certification of birth,” not a “certificate of birth.”

Recently FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it’s stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). We even brought home a few photographs.

Said photographs are available on the FactCheck page in question, including full-size high-resolution photos if you click on the smaller images on the page itself. FactCheck explains a bit more about this document and why it constitutes proof that Obama is truly a “natural-born citizen”:

The document is a “certification of birth,” also known as a short-form birth certificate. The long form is drawn up by the hospital and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health’s birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department. We tried to ask the Hawaii DOH why they only offer the short form, among other questions, but they have not given a response.

Note that Hawai’i is not the only place that provides a “short-form certification” rather than the “long-form certificate.” A friend of mine recently requested a copy of her birth certificate, in the town of her birth, and was given a generated document very similar to this one. It was more than enough to get her a passport … which means it passes muster according to federal standards of citizenship.

Something the “birthers” fail to understand is that, while the Constitution requires that the President be a natural-born citizen, it does not state what documentation is required to show this. There is nothing in the Constitution about whether birth certificates or certifications of birth are necessary. Rather, it allows the federal government to decide what is necessary. And according to federal statutes and legal decisions, what Obama has provided, suffices … just as a similar document sufficed for my friend when she applied for her passport.

While the sanctimoniously-outraged woman at Mike Castle’s “town hall meeting” was able to get her long-form birth certificate, for any number of reasons, not all Americans are able to get them. Local officials in some jurisdictions simply do not provide them, and offer no means to get them.

Whether Obama is a “natural-born citizen” is a matter for officials in Hawai’i to decide … and they have done so, as FactCheck explains in the article:

Update Nov. 1: The Associated Press quoted Chiyome Fukino as saying that both she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the health department holds Obama’s original birth certificate.

Fukino also was quoted by several other news organizations. The Honolulu Advertiser quoted Fukino as saying the agency had been bombarded by requests, and that the registrar of statistics had even been called in at home in the middle of the night.

Honolulu Advertiser, Nov. 1 2008: “This has gotten ridiculous,” state health director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said yesterday. “There are plenty of other, important things to focus on, like the economy, taxes, energy.” … Will this be enough to quiet the doubters? “I hope so,” Fukino said. “We need to get some work done.”

Fukino said she has “personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.”

It turns out that Fukino was incorrect, back in November; it was not enough. His word and those of other local officials are simply being ignored by those who are too committed to their irrational beliefs and delusional thinking to accept otherwise.

It’s really time for the “birthers” like the raging woman at Castle’s “town hall meeting” to grow the hell up and stop denying reality … but we all know they will not do so.

I’m not a big fan of Chris Matthews, but he has a point, as the Tribune‘s Swamp blog entry mentions:

See Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball question Rep. John Campbell, a Republican from California, about the “crazy” bill that he and others are sponsoring requiring future candidates for president to present their birth certificates. …

“Wouldn’t you like to put it to rest? That’s what this proposal is all about,” replies Campbell, noting that people also questioned Republican Sen. John McCain’s credentials because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. …

“Nice try,” replies Matthews. “What you’re doing is appeasing the nut-cases… You’re verifying the paranoia out there… You are playing to the crazies… You guys are playing to the whacko wing” of the Republican Party.

It’s true. Acting as though the “birthers” have a legitimate objection, only makes them feel as though their delusion is well-founded. Yet, as the Swamp blog relates, even Campbell has little doubt:

“As far as I know,” concedes the congressman, pressed to say whether Obama was born in the United States. “Yes,” he says, “I believe so.”

If this concession is good enough for Campbell, it should be good enough for everyone.

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The artist known by the single name “Madonna” has a long history of stirring up religious controversy, mostly invoking the wrath of Catholics and the Vatican (which has several times called for boycotts against her). Perhaps the most significant such controversy flared in 1989 with the release of her video for “Like A Prayer,” which featured — for no known reason — burning crosses, as well as her dancing and lying around suggestively inside what appears to be a Catholic church. Her mock crucifixion staged during performances in 2006 didn’t exactly win her any Catholic fans, either. Some of the outrage over those was understandable — if only slightly.

But the controversy over her upcoming tour, including appearances in Poland, is a little hard to figure out. The CBC reports on this particular dust-up:

A Catholic group is planning public prayer sessions to protest Madonna’s first appearance in Poland because the concert falls on the date of a significant religious festival.

The movement is being led by an ultra-conservative councillor in Warsaw, who wants the city to ban Madonna’s concert. …

Aug. 15, the date of Madonna’s sold-out Polish concert, is the Assumption, which celebrates Mary being taken bodily to heaven after her death. About 90 per cent of Poland’s 38 million people are Roman Catholic.

Apparently the Feast of the Assumption is a really serious holiday in Poland. Roman Catholics … as well as Anglicans … around the world observe the Feast of the Assumption every August 15. All sorts of events … not just Madonna concerts … are held that day, in Catholic-majority countries.

This seems to be a problem in Poland only. I’m not sure why, except that August 15 also happens to be the Day of the Polish Army, a commemoration of the Poles’ victory over the Soviets in the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. Moreover, and in spite of this even, concerts are frequently part of holiday celebrations, the world over.

So all in all, this whole thing is very strange.

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As a follow-up to my blog entry from last week … evangelist Tony Alamo — whose real name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman — has been convicted. Here’s the report from CNN:

A jury in Arkansas convicted evangelist Tony Alamo on Friday of 10 federal counts of taking minors across state lines for sex, according to the court in the Western District in Arkansas.

Of course, Alamo Hoffman has claimed not to have done anything wrong … and following the usual playbook of the paranoid conspiracy theorist, claims he was set up by the government:

In a phone interview last year with CNN, [Alamo Hoffman] called the accusations a hoax. …

Asked why authorities were searching the property, Alamo compared himself to Christ.

“Why were they after Jesus,” he asked. “It’s the same reason. Jesus is living within me.”

Perhaps you don’t realize it, Mr Alamo Hoffman, but making yourself into a living messiah is heretical … still, I’m sure your Christian sheep won’t be dissuaded from believing in you as ardently as ever. True believers never let insignificant little things like federal criminal convictions get in the way of their irrational metaphysics.

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The campaign to inject religion — specifically, protestant evangelical Christianity — into the nation’s public schools ran into a bit of a snag a few years ago, when “intelligent design” was found by a federal court to have been a fraudulent cover for “creationism,” which itself had been ruled a religion. Of course, they haven’t given up — religionazis don’t know how to give up! — but they’ve changed tactics.

Instead of trying to get their religion into public-school science classrooms via the “intelligent design” scam, they’re now working instead on getting it into history classrooms. The (UK) Guardian reports on one such effort that’s well under way in Texas:

The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state’s education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.

Members of a panel of experts appointed by the board to revise the state’s history curriculum, who include a Christian fundamentalist preacher who says he is fighting a war for America’s moral soul, want lessons to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue.

Opponents have decried the move as an attempt to insert religious teachings in to the classroom by stealth, similar to the Christian right’s partially successful attempt to limit the teaching of evolution in biology lessons in Texas.

Having a degree in history I find this effort repugnant. Religionists typically believe themselves to possess credentials in the field of history, merely by virtue of their beliefs. The truth is, they have no understanding of the subject. And their lack of understanding is betrayed by the claims they make about this effort.

There is nothing about Christianity that made the development of democracy in the US inevitable. Christian doctrine does not acknowledge any role for “the people” or “the masses” to control anything — ever.

The only forms of government dealt with in the Bible, are monarchies (e.g. when the Hebrews were in Egypt, and later their own monarchy which became two), tribal confederations (i.e. the Judges period), and then in the New Testament, the Roman state. In the Bible and other writings, Christians are exhorted to obey the authorities whom God has ordained (cf e.g. Romans 13:1-3). These orders to Christians further the cause of autocracy and dictatorship, rather than democracy, and do not even allow for a vox populi to guide the state.

Later in the Middle Ages, in western Europe, Christianity enveloped itself around the notion of monarchies. The coronation of monarchs and princes, for instance, became a religious rite (even though it was never called a “sacrament”). The same was true even for lower levels of nobility … being named a knight, for instance, often included the saying of a Mass. For centuries, far from agitating for democracy, Christianity wrapped its tentacles around western Europe’s feudal system and clamped down on it, controlling it whenever and wherever possible.

In the eastern Roman Empire, the state was even more closely tied to Christianity. Byzantine emperors meddled in religious affairs regularly, and for the most part, either appointed patriarchs and bishops, or were consulted on their appointment. Many ministers of the Byzantine government were themselves clergy or oblates in service to the Church.

These history-revising religionazis also have a twisted notion of historical causation. While the majority of the colonial population was Christian, this does not mean their Christian beliefs brought about democracy there. It merely means that most of those who decided to build a democracy, were Christians. It doesn’t mean any more than that.

If anyone thinks children are well-served by Texas’s current Bible-thumper-run public education system, the Guardian article makes a sound point:

There’s no doubt that history education needs a boost in Texas.

According to test results, one-third of students think the Magna Carta was signed by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and 40% believe Lincoln’s 1863 emancipation proclamation was made nearly 90 years earlier at the constitutional convention.

Way to go, Texas fundies. Y’all’re teachin’ dem dere chilluns ’bout Gawd ‘n’ all … but y’all’re fogittin’ da udder stuff dey needs ta know.

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